« VorigeDoorgaan »
311. FROM THE "LIFE OF NELSON."
It had been part of Nelson's prayer, that the British fleet might be distinguished by humanity in the victory which he expected. Setting an example himself, he twice gave orders to cease firing on the Redoubtable, supposing that she had struck, because her guns were silent; for, as she carried no flag, there was no means of instantly ascertaining the fact. From this ship, which he had thus twice spared, he received his death. A ball fired from her mizzen-top, which, in the then situation of the two vessels, was not more than fifteen yards from that part of the deck where he was standing, struck the epaulet on his left shoulder, about a quarter after one, just in the heat of action. He fell upon his face, on the spot which was covered with his poor secretary's blood. Hardy, who was a few steps from him, turning round, saw three men raising him up. "They have done for me at last, Hardy," said he. "I hope not," cried Hardy. "Yes!" he replied; "my back-bone is shot through." Yet even now, not for a moment losing his presence of mind, he observed, as they were carrying him down the ladder, that the tiller-ropes, which had been shot away, were not yet replaced, and ordered that new ones should be rove immediately; then, that he might not be seen by the crew, he took out his handkerchief, and covered his face and his stars. Had he but concealed these badges of honor from the enemy, England, perhaps, would not have had cause to receive with sorrow the news of the battle of Trafalgar. The cockpit was crowded with wounded and dying men, over whose bodies he was with some difficulty.conveyed, and laid upon a pallet in the midshipmen's berth. It was soon perceived, upon examination, that the wound was mortal. This, however, was concealed from all except Captain Hardy, the chaplain, and the medical attendants. He himself being certain, from the sensation in his back, and the gush of blood he felt momently within his breast, that no human care could avail him, insisted that the surgeon should leave him, and attend to those to whom he might be useful; "for," said he, "you can do nothing for me." All that could be done was to fan him with paper, and frequently to give him lemonade to alleviate his intense thirst. He was in great pain, and expressed much anxiety for the event of the action, which now began to declare itself. As often as a ship struck, the crew of the Victory hurrahed; and at every hurrah, a visible expression of joy gleamed in the eyes and marked the countenance of the dying hero. But he became impatient to see Hardy; and as that officer, though often sent for, could not leave the deck, Nelson feared that some fatal cause prevented him, and repeatedly cried, "Will no one bring Hardy to me? he must be killed! he is surely dead!" An hour and ten minutes elapsed from the time when Nelson received his wound, before Hardy could come to him. They shook hands in silence; Hardy in vain struggling to suppress the feelings of that most painful and yet sublimest moment.
“Well, Hardy,” said Nelson, “how goes the day with us?” "Very well," replied Hardy; "ten ships have struck, but five of the van have tacked, and show an intention to bear down upon the Victory. I have called two or three of our fresh ships round, and have no doubt of giving them a drubbing." "I hope," said Nelson, "none of our ships have struck." Hardy answered, "there was no fear of that." Then, and not till then, Nelson spoke of himself. "I am a dead man, Hardy," said he; "I am going fast: it will be all over with me soon. Come nearer to me. Let my dear Lady Hamilton have my hair, and all other things belonging to me." Hardy observed, that he hoped Mr. Beatty could yet hold out some prospect of life. "O! no,” he replied, "it is impossible. My back is shot through. Beatty will tell you so." Hardy then, once more, shook hands with him, and with a heart almost bursting, hastened upon deck.
By this time all feeling below the breast was gone; and Nelson, having made the surgeon ascertain this, said to him, "You know I am gone. I know it. I feel something rising in my breast," putting his hand on his left side, "which tells me so." And upon Beatty's inquiring whether his pain was very great, he replied, "so great that he wished he was dead. Yet," said he, in a lower voice, one would like to live a little longer too!" And after a few minutes, in the same under-tone, he added, "What would become of poor Lady Hamilton, if she knew my situation!" Next to his country she occupied his thoughts. Captain Hardy, some fifty minutes after he had left the cockpit, returned; and, again taking the hand of his dying friend and commander, congratulated him on having gained a complete victory. How many of the enemy were taken he did not know, as it was impossible to perceive them distinctly; but fourteen or fifteen at least. "That's well," cried Nelson, "but I bargained for twenty." And then, in a stronger voice, he said, “Anchor, Hardy; anchor." Hardy, upon this, hinted that Admiral Collingwood would take upon himself the direction of affairs. "Not while I live, Hardy," said the dying Nelson, ineffectually endeavoring to raise himself from the bed: "do you anchor." His previous orders for preparing to anchor had shown how clearly he foresaw the necessity of this. Presently, calling Hardy back, he said to him, in a low voice, "Don't throw me overboard;" and he desired that he might be buried by his parents, unless it should please the king to order otherwise.
* His artic
ulation now became difficult! but he was distinctly heard to say, “Thank God, I have done my duty!" These words he repeatedly pronounced; and they were the last words which he uttered. He expired at thirty minutes after four, three hours and a quarter after he had received his wound.
The death of Nelson was felt in England as something more than a public calamity: men started at the intelligence, and turned pale, as if they had heard of the loss of a dear friend. An object of our admiration and affection, of our pride and of our hopes, was suddenly
taken from us; and it seemed as if we had never till then known how deeply we loved and reverenced him. What the country had lost in its great naval hero- the greatest of our own and of all former times ―was scarcely taken into the account of grief. So perfectly, indeed, had he performed his part, that the maritime war, after the battle of Trafalgar, was considered at an end. The fleets of the enemy were not merely defeated, but destroyed; new navies must be built, and a new race of seamen reared for them, before the possibility of their invading our shores could again be contemplated. It was not, therefore, from any selfish reflection upon the magnitude of our loss that we mourned for him: the general sorrow was of a higher character. The people of England grieved that. funeral ceremonies, and public monuments, and posthumous rewards, were all which they could now bestow upon him whom the king, the legislature, and the nation would have alike delighted to honor; whom every tongue would have blessed; whose presence in every village through which he might have passed would have wakened the church-bells, have given schoolboys a holiday, have drawn children from their sports to gaze upon him, and "old men from the chimney corner to look upon Nelson ere they died. The victory of Trafalgar was celebrated, indeed, with the usual forms of rejoicing, but they were without joy; for such already was the glory of the British navy, through Nelson's surpassing genius, that it scarcely seemed to receive any addition from the most signal victory that ever was achieved upon the seas; and the destruction of this mighty fleet, by which all the maritime schemes of France were totally frustrated, hardly appeared to add to our security or strength; for, while Nelson was living to watch the combined squadrons of the enemy, we felt ourselves as secure as now, when they were no longer in existence.
SAMUEL ROGERS. 1763-1855. (Manual, p. 432.)
She was an only child - her name Ginevra,
Just as she looks there in her bridal dress,
Her pranks the favorite theme of every tongue.
Great was the joy; but at the nuptial feast, When all sate down, the bride herself was wanting, Nor was she to be found! Her father cried, ""Tis but to make a trial of our love!"
And filled his. glass to all; but his hand shook,
Weary of his life, Francesco flew to Venice, and, embarking, Flung it away in battle with the Turks. Orsini lived; and long might you have seen An old man wandering as in quest of something — Something he could not find — he knew not what. When he was gone, the house remained awhile Silent and tenantless, then went to strangers.
Full fifty years were past and all forgotten, When on an idle day, a day of search
'Mid the old lumber in the gallery,
That mouldering chest was noticed; and 'twas said, By one as young, as thoughtless as Ginevra, "Why not remove it from its lurking-place?" "Twas done as soon as said; but on the way It burst, it fell; and lo! a skeleton,
With here and there a pearl, an emerald stone,
There then had she found a grave! Within that chest had she concealed herself, Fluttering with joy, the happiest of the happy; When a spring lock, that lay in ambush there, Fastened her down forever!